29 December 2008

Impa and the silent night, holy night

On Christmas Day I decided to visit my downstairs neighbour at about fifteen minutes past midnight. It may have been a minute earlier or later, but that's just a detail at that time of night. I hadn't gone to see him before. It had occurred to me several times, but the door to his gallery is usually closed, so dropping by isn't easily done. And now, in the dead of a dark and cold Christmas night, I took the plunge and went. I fumbled for the switch of my bedside lamp and stumbled out of bed. I put on a pair of tracksuit trousers, found a jumper lying around somewhere, tied my hair into a ponytail and unlocked my front door. When I got downstairs I was surprised to find the door to the gallery open. I wanted to speak to Downstairs Neighbour so badly now I hadn't even thought about what I would've done if it had been closed.

I rang his door bell. Inside, I heard someone say: "Get that, will you." The door opened and the smell of strong roll-ups came wafting out. I saw Downstairs Neighbour standing in his flat holding a wardrobe door. On the floor next to the wardrobe was a man on his knees with a roll-up in the corner of his mouth and a screw auger in his hand. He had opened the front door behind him and now dived back into the wardrobe without even glancing at me. He was getting ready to start screwing.

"Hello, I'm your upstairs neighbour."
Downstairs Neighbour raised an eyebrow. "Hi."
I was wondering if I missed something. I wasn't sure what his half smile was supposed to mean.
"It's the middle of the night and I'm trying to get some sleep. Do you think you could be quiet?"
Downstairs Neighbour raised his other eyebrow too. "So what's bothering you?"

My jaw tried to drop. I stopped the dropping with all my might, because the last thing you need when you have bare feet and a sleepy face is an open mouth. Inside my skull I could feel my brain folders being scanned for socially accepted behaviour, but I got no relevant hits. Either he had no clue what was going on, or he did have a clue but just didn't give a toss. In both cases I needed Tactics. My mind was racing. Should I go for anger or patient reasonableness? I was probably too baffled to choose anger. Besides, anger somehow feels different when you go barefoot. And I'm not sure if anger really gets you anywhere with people who think it's perfectly normal to do a bit of drilling in the middle of the night.

"Drilling", I said. "And screwing. And banging things."
From the bottom of the wardrobe came an impatient: "All right, we're bearing it in mind."
Which I totally disagreed with.
I said: "I can hear just about everything anyway, because these flats are really noisy. I can even hear you talk and cough. During the day I don't mind, but this isn't very nice, in the middle of the night."
Downstairs Neighbour looked from the roll-up smoker at the bottom of the wardrobe to me and said: "We'll be finished soon."
"Good", I said. "What shall we say? Another ten minutes? And after that quiet again?"
Something was muttered on the bottom of the wardrobe and my neighbour looked at me with a grin on his face. "Sure." 

I walked along the gallery and up the stairs, back to my own flat. I locked the door and got back into bed, trembling. With anger. I wondered what would happen. 
15 minutes later, all was quiet.

22 December 2008

Impa saw a cool animation

By Evelien Lohbeck. More here.

19 December 2008

(Impa burn and champers bubble)

One of the chicest things that ever happened to me was when the doorbel rang and a bicycle courier brought two bottles of champagne for breakfast. I'll just write that whole sentence again, it feels that good. One of the chicest things that ever happened to me was when the doorbel rang and a bicycle courier brought two bottles of champagne for breakfast. He was all steamy but unfortunately he had to leave straight away.

Impa was on Vlieland (2)

18 December 2008

Fire burn and cauldron bubble

In October the sun was shining on the Zandvoort beach. It makes for extra good staring at the waves, digging your bare feet into the sand. Now the October autumn has wintered. Not quite as much as it did in the old days when everything was much better, but still: I've been out on my bicycle with icy dew in my hair this week. And because Dutch autumns usually last until a few rare, cold wintery days in February I now shut out the grey, turn up the heat under my cauldron, grab my apron and my wooden spoon and bubble myself a nice little autumn soup. Beautifully orange and wonderfully hearty.

Pumpkin soup! Dice a couple of garlic cloves, an onion and a small, round pumpkin (including the nice pieces of orange skin). Take organic ingredients for more taste. Gently fry the onions and the garlic in olive oil or ghee. Then fry the pumpkin along for a while. Add a couple of bay leaves, freshly ground black pepper, a stock cube (mushroom stock is nice in autumn) and a glass of white wine (Make it good wine, beacause you shouldn't cook with wine you wouldn't drink). Add water until the pumpkin is almost covered (Better to add extra water later than to boil thin soup). Simmer for 20 minutes or untill the pumpkin has gone soft. Take out the bay leaves, puree briefly and serve with a spoonful of sour cream, fresh parsly, a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds and extra salt and pepper if desired. Great with crusty bread with melted cheese or bruschetta from the oven.

Eat. Enjoy. Love.

15 December 2008

Impa was on Vlieland

Impa and the ball

I'm a drooling and panting puppy, bouncing along behind a big orange skippy ball, ears flapping. For running feels so great and everything smells so good.
I get off track every now and then. When the ball bounces off course unexpectedly and I stumble over my paws - way too large, allowing for growth- looking around frantically to see where it went. Or when I run right underneath it and get it on the nose. Or when it suddenly comes to a halt. I'll look at it, bark at it furiously and lick it with all my might. And then, when I nudge it along until it starts rolling again and gains speed, I'll suddenly be exhausted. I'll lie down on the spot and sleep. Deeply. Trustingly. Then my wet nose and soft ears won't have to do a thing.

I've been back from Vlieland for weeks. It was great. But that's nothing new: it always is. A lot has happened since, but that's nothing new either. It always does. Forget about rolling along calmly and evenly. It's all or nothing. Skipping along and gathering speed untill it all just has to come to a complete standstill.
And there, in that stillness, I dream of rolling along quietly. Calmly and softly. You can see my paws twitching rhythmically in my sleep.

Impa is on Vlieland

Impa is taking a break. On my beloved island Vlieland, where the tall grass waves in the wind outside my cabin, the beach is endlessly light and I wake up with a smile every quiet morning. I pick up a dear friend from the ferry every now and then and every evening in the shower I wash the salt off my skin and the drifting sand from my hair. And the good thing about it all is that I'm only halfway. The city, the internet and you, my readers, will have to do without me for just another week. Mmmmmmm...

26 October 2008

Impa in the rain

I bought a schlumbergera at a flower stall in town. There are actually still people you can give those to. "It's stong, mind you", the flower seller muttered. I could hardly hear what he was saying because of the brown roll-up dangling from the corner of his mouth. It must have been dangling there for a while, because it had gotten so wet near his mouth that it had broken and was only hanging from half its paper. There was a drizzle. Fine rain from a steely grey sky. Drops too small to fall and simply filling the air around us. I followed the flower seller into his stall as he said something about the rain. That it was miserable. I told him he was right, but that it's just the way things are in autumn. To which in turn he agreed. It was like an automatically reeled off litany about the rain. The heart wasn't in it, but the words still found their way out. Into the rain.
I was fumbling with my bicycle outside our office building. I pulled the plastic cover off the saddle and shook off the rain. I was trying to find out if all those tiny drops of water on the transparent plastic were on the inside or the outside. I was wearing gloves so I touched it with my lips. Behind me someone said: "Isn't this fine rain?" For a brief moment I wondered how she knew I was thinking about that, but then it occurred to me she could never have gathered that from the fact I was standig next to my bike with the saddle cover in my mouth. It was a woman from our office, she was new. She smiled and said: "I always think this is such friendly rain." She turned and walked away underneath the chestnut trees.

Impa saw the Icelandic crisis in perspective on the train

Man: Iceland are having a hard time. First they play 2-0 against the Netherlands, and now this.
Second man: Yeah. But at least Iceland as a country can't go bankrupt, because they have football players abroad.

24 October 2008

Impa paints (7)

Sam, 10 × 10 cm. For my friend H.

1 October 2008

Impa makes a clean sweep

They say that by clearing your surroundings you clear your soul. When something's the matter but I'm not quite sure what, I tackle those overdue dishes and chuck those old newspapers in the bin and I'll feel a lot better straight away. The same goes for useful things like catching up on my paperwork and calling my gran. But I realise I've probably been spending too much time behind the computer again when I suddenly feel the urge to tidy the internet.

30 September 2008

Impa's forest is out of the wood

As the working week starts on monday morning and everyone returns to their computers, assembly lines or conference tables, throwing quick glances at the clock that is yet to tick away all the working hours of the week, what does the forest do? Isn't it secretly sleeping late? Are all the trees at the ready? Are they standing by to house spiders and silently bend over the forest trails? Are they dropping chestnuts?
I went out to check early this monday morning, and all was in perfect order. In the misty morning hours the forest was just as it should be. Trees, mist, wet sand, fragrant moss, mushrooms.
I wish I could be getting up for the crack and the dawn every monday morning.

23 September 2008

Impa and the music

Music is the shortest route to God. The large tent isn’t crowded. In the back, my feet have several square metres all to themselves. The asphalt is marked with white parking lines. Here, on the edge of the festival terrain, I see no green from underneath the tent cloth, only parking spaces and porta-potties. The crowd is lying on the grass somewhere else. I dance in the dark. Little light in a lot of tent. The dark folds itself around me. I’m hoping friend A. will head this way too.

16 January 2008, 09.42: Hurray, hurray! I am proud of you. Hurray, hurray! We’ll have to celebrate this. Hurray, hurray! A kiss and a hug. Hurray, hurray! M.
20 February 2008, 14.05: Looking sharp, girl!
2 April 2008, 10.13: Du bist meine himmelsterne superschatsen. Schlaf gut. Der M.
14 juni 2008, 00.03: Happy birthday, cutie!

Music comes floating along like the ribbon of scent in a cartoon. I stick my nose in the air and before I know it, a trail of sensation flows into my head and all I can do is follow: drooling and tripping over my own dog’s paws. Music that curls itself around my senses and hooks on to something. Not fastening it, but vibrating along. Vibrating to exactly what was already there and then taking me to another place. Not somewhere else. To the same spot, but then more. Like an extra piece of reality unfolding.

17 July 2008, 12.11: We‘re resting today with our books and a bag of delicious, unhealthy fruit flavoured toffee in our lazy chairs underneath very tall, rustling poplars with the sunshine flickering through the leaves. Good luck at work. Big kiss T.
24 July 2008, 08.51: 1900! So I can go to Image sales. Have alrdy gt terrain tckts btw.
02 August 2008, 02.22: Hadahelluvagoodtime! Toodles.

And then there’s the dancing in the dark, when no one can see me. There’s something about Mogwai’s sound. Every tone seems to come from a different vocabulary than other guitar sound.

5 August 2008, 13.20: Hey Beauty. Are we still on for the cinema tonight? Kiss.
11 August 2008, 19.03: Hello! Are we still on for a movie after work tomorrow? Should be fun. See you tomorrow... M x
29 August 2008, 21.48: Fucking psycho's, these Chinese. They start giggling when you only look at them or want to sleep with you straight away. I’m in a club now and they are all playing dice.

The music builds up gently, flowing into my brain. I bob and roll and before I realise it, with my feet deep, deep in the asphalt, I am heaving in a wall of sound built up so slowly and still so in sync with the flow in my head that I hadn’t noticed it had swelled so. And then there’s this wall of sound tumbling over me, whirling and spreading. An avalanche of motion in my mind, and then suddenly, deep inside, something opens up.

3 September 2008, 16.44: Will call you after work.
4 September 2008, 09.38: I think I’ll come by between the meeting and my activity. Are you interested in a dried frog? I’ll bring it along.

I look straight at something true. Something making me an inextricable part of that huge, cool, dark tent where the sound has swelled so that nothing else exists. I am the farthest reaches of the music and the music fills every last part of the universe.

4 September 2008, 16.21: Ah. Jolly good to have an unexpected cuppa.

A breeze makes my legs go all goosepimply. Music runs down to the same careful sounds of the beginning. I open my eyes. It surprises me how tangible things look and how they are both very near and infinitely far.

14 September 2008, 13.18: I love you.

Tent, lights, stage, crowd. They’re all solid and dry. And very weightless. Very understandable. Like paper. Tears run down my face.

23 August 2008

The bamboo on sunday

When the wind blows, the bamboo on the balcony makes a rustling sound. Its blades sigh in the wind and set everything around them in motion. I always imagine I can see the bamboo smile.
It rained on sunday. The water calmly fell straight down. A geometrical pattern of silvery grey against a backdrop of green silence. Thick drops made the bamboo leaves jump up and down. Small flashes of light bounced off them. The bamboo stood straight up in the rain and with a hundred small, green fingers played the piano in the air.
I was lying on the sofa with a rare kind of contentment and felt the damp air just outside the window. I just lay there and read my book. And every now and then I watched the bamboo concert for a while.

15 August 2008

Impa confesses

I don't have a hair drier.

14 August 2008

13 August 2008

Colleague M. gives Impa a tummy ache

In the old days, when I was actually young and life took much longer, I could be in stitches with laughter. On a crummy old cassette tape you can still hear how that almost killed me once. Me and my girlfiends used to press the magical buttons Play and Record on my very first cassette player and record radio plays or chat endlessly about nothing. One day, my friend N. announced I would sit on her shoulders. After that, it's quiet for a while and then you hear a lot of stumbling and a loud thud. I'd climbed on to her shoulders from the bed when she lost her balance and I violently met with the green carpet on the floor via the lamp, door and desk. Then for a long time the only thing you hear on the tape is two ten-year-olds gasping, panting and moaning with laughter until friend N. groans 'You scared me out of my wit, man.'
Somehow, that changes when you get older. I still laugh out loud at jokes or walk around with a smile that has something to do with a general feeling of wellbeing, but actually rolling around laughing is a rare thing nowadays.
But then I started working at the office where colleague M. works. Him and I can laugh so hard it never seems to stop. I have no clue why, and our colleagues often throw us looks as if we've gone bonkers. And maybe we have. Most of the time we just laugh about a stupid face or a remark the others never caught. And once we've started, the laughter itself is so contageous it only gets worse. The other day I remarked - quite sincerely - that I had never consciously experienced the date of 30th July. Colleague M. choked, started wheezing and squeeking and by the time his eyes were watering, I had a tummy ache from laughing too. And could he please stop because my make-up was runing and I couldn't breathe.
In the end, the reason for laughing doesn't matter. It just feels so bloody good it'll get you through at least another week. That's why I've made a schedule of the days I'd like to work with colleague M. So I'm guaranteed to get that shot of endorphine regularly. It should get me through winter unscathed.

13 July 2008

The girl in the hallway

There was a girl in the hallway last night. She was sitting on the floor by the door of the guy across the hall and cried. She talked quietly, knocked on his door, sat there and wept. I watched her through the peephole for a while. When I woke up this morning, she was gone.
The guy from across the hall carries two chairs out onto the grassy spot outside the flat. He lights a barbecue. He puts a couple of sausages on it and lays a small table for two. When she comes out, I can see it's her. Her long, blonde hair is flowing down her back. It's wet.

11 July 2008

Impa speaks Swedish too

70 year-old Swedish man: 'Your feet are so small for your height.'
Impa: 'Size 36.'
70 year-old Swedish man: ' Do you fall often?'

10 July 2008

Impa looks at photographs

© Gunnar Smoliansky

Impa went to Stockholm's cultural centre Kulturhuset. It housed an exhibition of Gunnar Smoliansky, One Picture at a Time. An endless series of photographs of Stockholm and Smoliansky's personal life, taken over the past 50 years and arranged in no particular order. Pictures of the city's neighbourhoods, the people in the streets, Smoliansky's wife, a swing in a park, the shadow of a tree, a nail in the wall, a fly on the window sill. All in black and white, all of a wonderful softness. Because in themselves, they are no more than pictures, observations, the blink of an eye. Put together, however, they paint the picture of an era of the city and of the personal life of a man with an incredible eye for detail in the world around him.
If the pictures hadn't made me happy, the space would have. On the top floor of Kulturhuset, the exhibition room lies stretched out between a smooth, wooden floor and an industrial ceiling of frames and lamps. The deep space and the light from outside make up for the lack of height. To one side light falls on to the bare concrete wall through glass in the roof. In the opposite wall windows from top to bottom offer a view of the heart of Stockholm. (A minimal sofa in a spacious room, surrounded by concrete and overflown with light? Where can I get that for my home?)

6 July 2008